A bunch of new chaplets up for sale on my Etsy!

So I got a bit of crafting energy out of my system this past weekend, and after taking care of three commissions, I decided to keep the flow going and made another fourteen little things.

Just a few chaplets.  Yanno, a few.  Three each for the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel, each completed with a medallion of the good angel, and two chaplets for the blessed dead, each finished with a proper crucifix.  It’s been a while since I made any of these, but I had the supplies leftover from a project I had to abandon, so I figured I may as well put them to use and put them up for sale for some lucky magician, devotee, or spiritual worker to use in their own blessed work.

 

Interested in getting one (or more) of these beauties?  Hurry on over to my Etsy shore and buy one today!  Chaplets like these tend to sell fast, since everyone’s looking to up their devotional game with the powers above and below, so once these are gone, they’re gone!  Of course, if you need, you can always commission me for something special that you don’t see listed; for those, just send me an email and we can work together from there!

Everyone’s Got Troublesome Ancestors

This post is a little late in the making, but it’s something I definitely wanted to bring up after my earlier post on ancestor veneration 101.  If you missed out on that post or forgotten about the basics of working with your ancestors, take a look at that old post before reading this one.  Who knows, you might have some new insights along the way, even if you did read it before!

So, when you get right down to it, everyone’s got ancestors, and ancestor veneration practices are available to everyone in pretty much any way.  Every culture has some way to recognize ancestors, whether it’s nothing more than praying for the dead or culminating in a week of offering full burnt sacrifices at their tombs.  For magicians, priests, and other spiritual practitioners, working with our ancestor is a powerful practice that we can adapt to our own cultures and traditions that can yield huge blessings, often without much of the fuss or hassle that other rituals might demand of us.  After all, the dead live on through us, and we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us; working with our ancestors can often be mutually beneficial.  Before any god or goddess, our ancestors should be and often are our first go-to spirit allies for defense, prosperity, and succor, and their insights can help guide us throughout our lives in so many ways, including teaching us new methods of working or simply easing things in difficult times.

But…well, there’s always gonna be some hitch or difficulty inherent in a practice, innit?  Of course there is.  When it comes to ancestor veneration, sure, there’s always the issue of doing rituals inappropriately or offering them things taboo to them within the culture, or desecrating their memories, or any other obvious-as-hell mistake you can make, but there’s one issue that we’re all (quite literally) familiar with: that one damn relative we just don’t get along with.  Or two.  Or a dozen.  Or quite a bit more.  While we can often ignore these troublesome relatives when they’re alive, putting up with them politely once or twice a year when we have to endure their presence for holiday dinners, it’s a little more tricky when they’re dead and hanging out at your ancestor shrine.

So, what can happen when a particular ancestor is acting up and causing problems?  What sorts of problems can they make?  Honestly, the effects can be as varied as the number of ways they can make your life better; they can interfere with your personal relationships among the living, cause health issues, stymie progress in the things you’re working forwards, or other things all the way to causing actual mayhem and chaos which can result in your injury or death.  They might not do anything, of course, depending on how patient they might be with you or based on the type of relationship you have with them, but they might also just ignore your pleas for help when you actually need them to do something, or they can turn your other ancestors against you as well.  It depends on the specific ancestor’s temperament, how badly they’re offended, and how badly they want to bring your attention to the offense, but in general, when the dead are upset, it can cause any number of issues in your life.  Untended and ignored, the ancestors can become overwhelmed by wrath and anger and turn into truly fearsome beasts of spirits, potentially even becoming enemies of their own family that can cause untold trouble across multiple generations; it’s not uncommon for familial curses to be rooted in an upset ancestor that, essentially, curses their own bloodline.  It’s unfortunate, but it does happen; in such cases, the way to break the curse is to appease that ancestor or remove them entirely from the situation.  Essentially, upset ancestors can be a pain, and it really is best to deal with that pain as soon as you can so you can avoid more pain down the line.

There are lots of reasons why we might find a particular member of our ancestors to be a pain in the ass.  To rule out the most obvious case, there’s always a chance we could have done something to offend one of them.  For instance, if we promise a particular ancestor something, such as giving them a cooked meal or refraining from doing a particular thing, it’s not uncommon or unlikely that they’ll take offense to our having neglected or broken our promise, and we’d need to work it off and mend the relationship we have with them.  This goes for any kind of spirit you have a relationship, of course, which is why we can bring this up and set it aside first; as I’ve said before, try to refrain from making vows unless you absolutely need to, but even if you make a small promise of payment, a promise is a promise, and you’d best keep your word.

One of the most common issues for beginners that can result from ancestral work is the fact that, once they start to realize that you’re reaching out to them, they often flock to you like moths to a flame, especially if you have the ability to see, hear, and speak with spirits as opposed to simply making offerings and prayers in their name.  Not only can this happen with our own ancestors, but it can also happen with any passing spirit of the dead, whether or not we’re related to them by blood, tradition, or culture.  In short, some ancestors want attention, sometimes for an actual reason and other times because they miss being tended to or cared for.  This isn’t as much a problem in cultures where ancestor veneration is common, but in modern Western societies where we hardly ever tend to our family graves or make offerings to our dead, it’s increasingly a problem that we tend to forget our dead, and when they have problems, they can cause problems for us.  The simple approach here is to simply work with them as much as you’re able, not overextending yourself or draining yourself dry, but working with them as you can to make sure their needs are met.  In the process, you often learn more about your heritage and ancestry, you learn specific ways and workings from and with your ancestors that can make things easier for you and them, and you find newer ways to make your ancestor work more efficient and effective.  This can take any number of forms, but one major caution I’d recommend is that you set boundaries with your spirits; they may not be able to get everything they ask for, even if it’s just attention (especially if it’s just attention), and many of us can’t tend to our ancestry all day every day.  After all, we living have needs, too, and if the ancestors make big demands, then they need to give big assistance.  If all they want is attention, tell them (kindly, politely, yet firmly) to back off and enjoy what they have, and if they have a specific need, make sure you understand why they need it or if they just want it.  This sort of problem can develop or undevelop depending on the spirit, and sometimes it can be useful in situations where you need to pass along messages to the living in order to keep the living from coming to future harm.  Just take it easy, so long as you take your relationships seriously and take your work further as best suits you.

There can often be a problem where it’s not so much with our relationships with our ancestors as with the fact that we simply don’t know who we are.  Unless you’re big into genealogy or have good connections in your family with genealogists, we simply may not know who it is we descend from, especially in our modern age when keeping up ties with the extended family is becoming more and more difficult, as well as more and more uncommon in Western culture.  While I won’t say that everything’s fine, this won’t necessarily cause you problems; if you know even one name of your ancestors, such as a grandparent you vaguely knew who passed away, that can be your key to learning more about the rest of them.  That particular ancestor can act as a gopher and go-between that can bring you in touch with the rest of your ancestral family.  Working with this single ancestor can open up the door to working with all the rest of them and bring you into a closer relationship with those whom you might have forgotten or never knew about.  Genealogical research is only a boon in this case, and I highly recommend everyone be able to trace their ancestry back at least a few generations if not further; this may not always be the case due to records that were lost, destroyed, or suppressed, but information is information, whether you get it through historical research or spiritual investigation.

A special case of this is were someone is adopted and has no ties with or knowledge of their blood family.  In this case, hope is not lost; for all practical purposes, the ancestors of your adoptive family become your own ancestors.  Although kin is primarily determined by blood, it is also determined by name; being adopted means being made part of the family into which you were adopted, and being accepted into a family means that they accept you from now all the way back into time.  It can often be a painful shame for those who are adopted and truly have no means of connecting with their blood family, but again, just as with the other case of not knowing who your ancestors might be, you’re not bereft of ancestors just because you may not know who they are.  Family is family, either way; ancestors of the adoptive family can just as easily bridge the gap between you and your blood family just as a known blood ancestor can connect you with your unknown blood ancestors.  As above, information is information, whether you get it through historical research or spiritual investigation.

One particular issue with our ancestors that often arises is that we simply might not like them or agree with them on important philosophical, spiritual, or political views.  For instance, it’s a common issue where many outcasts in our day and age are cast out by their own family for any number of reasons, such as converting to another religion, being queer of some sort, differences in views on human decency and bigotry, or other relationship-breaking things that can cause us suffering in life when dealing with them personally as well as in death when we have to deal with them spiritually.  I can attest to some of these things myself; coming from a European American family with roots going back to the founding of the country, I have proud slaveowners and slavedrivers in my lineage, and not all my ancestors from those lines care for the fact that I’m initiated into an African diasporic religion and affiliate myself so closely to the faith of those that they subjugated and thought subhuman; other of my ancestors find the fact that I’m gay to be confusing and problematic for them, if not disrespectful to their notions of tradition and righteousness.  It’s unfortunate that they think this way, but in general, once people die and get used to being an ancestral spirit, I have noticed that their viewpoints tend to soften somewhat; they might hold on to particular strongly-held views, but they do tend to be more accepting in death than they were in life.  At points, however, these issues can be difficult to overcome; in those cases, I work with other of my ancestors who do like and accept me to either facilitate relationships and communications with them, or simply pay my respects to the ancestors who dislike me and move on.

That’s one of the core methods of working with troublesome ancestors, by the way; even if you don’t like them or if they don’t like you, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still their kin and descendant.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as supportive as anyone else about the whole “blood doesn’t determine family, your love determines your family” notion that’s common among the youth of today, but there’s still something to be said for blood ties that really does matter spiritually and physically that Platonic or romantic bonds alone cannot approach or approximate.  All ties to your ancestry are indelible and unalienable, and no matter what you might think of your ancestry or heritage, whether you’re proud or ashamed of it, you cannot change the fact that they lived and did whatever they did.  No human alive or dead was wholly good or wholly evil, and all of humanity of the past, present, and future has a particular dignity that we need to recognize and appreciate.  For the mere fact that their works contributed to the world we live in today, for good or for ill, and that their lives contributed to the possibility of your own, I claim that your ancestors should be honored across the board and unconditionally.  I consider it to be an obligatory form of filial piety that crosses the boundaries of life and death.  In my case, of course I despise the fact that my ancestry played a direct role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and supported the inhumane institutions of slavery, and I am ashamed of it and for their propagation of racism that still blights my country today; however, I cannot help but honor the fact that I am related to them, and without them I would not and could not live, and that even amongst their works that I consider evil and baneful to the happiness and health of humanity, there are also good works that encouraged those same things.  In seeing the good in them, I can help bridge what might otherwise be an unsurpassable chasm that would only cause problems, and perhaps swing their viewpoints to see how their actions caused both harm and help in their time and in my own, maybe even remediate them to help correct what I see as negative.  If not, oh well; I pay my respects to them all the same for what can be respected, and ignore the rest of what can’t, and move on to the spirits that don’t cause me such conflict.

It can be exceptionally difficult for some people who tend to their ancestors, however, who were abused by them in life or were close to those who were abused by them.  Consider the case where a young child was abused by their grandmother they lived with, or where someone was raped by their uncle; having grown up and with the abusive relative now dead, how might the person approach this situation?  It’s difficult, I admit, and I feel somewhat at a loss to discuss this particular topic because I haven’t been the victim of family or domestic abuse; in lieu of or in addition to my own thoughts which I offer here, I bow to the guidance and advice of those who can better speak to such a situation.  The pain from being emotionally, physically, sexually, or spiritually abused can often never be forgiven nor forgotten, and I don’t suggest that the abused should simply move on with their lives and pretend that everything is hunky-dory A-OK now that their relative is dead and hopefully enlightened; I know some people who would sooner condemn their parents to the bottom pits of hell with bell, book, and candle before uttering a single good thing to their name for all the abuse they put them through.  There are different approaches you could take in this case, depending on where you are emotionally and spiritually.  If you’re at a point where you can offer forgiveness or are looking for closure, then you could do exactly that; you might not work with that ancestor as an ally or treat them as you might your trusted, close-knit dead, but you could offer them forgiveness and acceptance for who they were and what they did, and work with them so as to bring to them the pain they brought you so you both can work towards bringing it to an end so that you don’t have to carry it anymore as a burden in your life.  Alternatively, if you’re not at that stage yet, simply don’t work with them, don’t call on them, and don’t try to give them attention if doing so brings you more pain than peace.  If such an abusive ancestor starts acting up and demanding attention, have your other ancestors cut them off and protect you or to help you figure out how you might placate them at arm’s distance so that, if nothing else, you aren’t pained by them any more with their wants when they didn’t do a damn to help you.  In other words, if you find that you can’t work with them in a good mutually-beneficial way, don’t work with them at all.  Even if all humanity has good and bad in them, if all you can see is the bad, then not only should you refrain from attempting to work with them for good, but you’re rendered unable to do so because of the hurt that you’re still healing from.  Take your time; you’re not responsible for the abuse they gave you in life, and you’re not responsible for their amelioration in death, either.  Work with abusive ancestors only as much as you’re capable of doing so, and work with your other ancestors instead to help you with your own healing as well as working on your behalf to isolate, remediate, elevate, or otherwise correct the patterns of abuse that might be present in your ancestry.

If you’re in a relationship like a marriage or otherwise long-term arrangement, especially where you’re living with a partner, there’s a particular issue that can crop up that might not otherwise be expected.  It can sometimes be the case where you and your ancestors get along great, as do your partner with their ancestors, but your two ancestral courts have a feud or other issue between them.  Think like what would happen if the descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys of American fame got together, or if Shakespeare’s Juliet of the House of Capulet and Romeo of the House of Montague got married instead of killing themselves overdramatically; even if the living descendants of these families made up and ended their feuds, the dead ancestors of these families might still have beef between them.  Such problematic ancestors might cause issues for the living couple in ways that might threaten to break up the relationship, if not start the feud anew or prolong it in dangerous ways for the couple or their respective families.  Breaching such a problem can often take the involvement of both you and them, as sometimes trying to convince the ancestors in question to make up and play nice can be trying at the best of times, especially if the beef is one-sided and you happen to be on the opposite side (and therefore considered an enemy).  Protection works can help, as can getting your ancestors who do play nice with the other side set a good example for facilitating peace between your different courts of ancestors; other magical works similar to happy marriage or peaceful home workings can be done on your ancestries much as you might get two quarrelsome people to play nice in life.  If the feud was caused over a particular event or item, it might be good to repair that breach in familial relationships by giving in to the demands made of the offended party, whether symbolically or in actuality; for instance, if the feud was started over a stolen horse, giving a representation of a horse to the offended spirit or dedicating a horse’s growth and training in that ancestor’s name can often repair the feud and break any further hostilities.

You might start to see see something of a trend with all these solutions to these problems, dear reader.  All the problem-solving, diplomatic, political, and interpersonal tactics and strategies we might use in life among the living to solve problems are often the most realistic, approachable, and effective ways to deal with sorting out problems with the dead.  Our ancestors, after all, were human just like us, and just because they’re dead doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve forgotten how to act like humans, because in almost all cases, they still are.  That said, we’d still need to approach them how they might expect to be approached; I wouldn’t approach my ultra-Orthodox Jewish Ukrainian ancestors from way back who died well before my parents were born the same way I might approach my more recently-deceased bacon-eating gentile cousins whom I knew personally and familiarly, and those who come from radically different cultures will often find that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Still, once you understand the rules and nuance of culture, the problems often present solutions of their own accord.  Treat your ancestors as human with human wants and human needs, and you’ll often figure out that the best way to deal with problems is an extrapolation of how you’d deal with the living, just in the realm of spirit.

This can’t always be done, however; there are times when problems get too big to handle for simple solutions, such as when the spirit of an ancestor degrades or transforms into something much more wrathful and dangerous than a powerful human spirit, when an honest-to-God generational curse is involved, when whole branches of the family declare you an enemy to your own kin, or in other particular situations.  There are ways to deal with these, but these go well beyond what might be expected for simple solutions, and often require investigation, divination, and multi-pronged approaches that bring in other entities of your spiritual courts for direction, protection, elevation, or isolation unique to the particular situation you’re in.  Every problem has a solution, of course, and it’s rare that an issue caused by an ancestor is a predicament and not a problem.  Just as your ancestors should be your first line of defense and line of aid because of their once-human status, it’s often the case that the best way to approach and work with them is as humans, both in times of peace and in times of conflict.

Do you have any particular stories of working with troublesome ancestors?  Are there any techniques, tips, or tricks you’d like to share when figuring out or fixing up problems with them?  Is there any advice you might like to offer to know when a problem might occur and how best to deal with it?  Let us know in the comments!

Ancestors are for Everyone

I realize that lately (and for some time now), the general trend on my blog is to talk about either geomancy or philosophical topics involving spirituality and the occult, with only the occasional ritual thrown in.  Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not; I personally feel like I’ve shifted away from talking more about specific rituals I’ve done or some of the concrete results or distinct messages that I’ve obtained, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  After all, this blog has been up in one form or another for going on eight years now, and things have changed from those first days I started talking about XaTuring or how awesome Fr. Rufus Opus’ coursework was.  While I still consider myself young and woefully inexperienced, I can also say that I’ve done a fair bit.  I still have more than a fair bit to do, of course, and I strive to continue learning and practicing as much as I’m able to, and I would like to keep sharing what I do as much as I can to document my own progress and path, and if that helps others with their own works, all the better.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the general feel of the occult blogosphere has kinda changed.  Again, it may just be my perception, but many of the old blogs I’ve used to follow are pretty much defunct, some having been wiped off the internet for good.  Back when I first started blogging about magic, you couldn’t swing a cat without coming across an occult blog.  I guess these things come and go, but I feel like there has been a notable drop in people talking about the Work.  It could just be that people are moving onto bigger and better things, or simply are at a level where they can’t really talk much publicly about their works and rituals, or it could be that for some people, they got in, got what they needed, and got back out.  It’s fine in any case, I suppose, but it does make me feel a little wistful and nostalgic.  There are some of my friends who I would’ve liked to see keep blogging, but that’s entirely up to them.  After all, in conversations with them, I know they’ve been kept busy, it’s just that writing about their business (and busy-ness) isn’t in the cards anymore for them.

Which then got me to thinking, what about myself and my own writing?  Even though I follow the maxim that one should never apologize for the rate of their own writing on their own blog, I know I have my slow periods, and I’ve noted that I typically don’t write as much when I’m not doing much.  After all, without the Work that acts as my inspiration, I don’t have much to say besides just throwing my thoughts out into the open, which…I mean, let’s be honest, thoughts are cheap to the point of worthlessness.  You can ask anyone for their opinion, after all, but I assume people visit my blog for more than just to see me waste electronic ink on something that may or may not be related to their lives.  And from what I hear, people come here for inspiration and guidance in their own Work, not just moral or ethical guidance (such as it is) from my pontification and soapboxing on whatever debacle or outrage du jour I see on Twitter or Facebook.  And, while I may extol the virtues of the art heavily, not everyone is interested in geomancy.

I assume, dear reader, that you want things that empower your practice and your life, and that that’s what you’re most interested in.  So, let me reintroduce you to a basic practice you may or may not already have heard of: ancestor veneration.

Everyone has ancestors; there is not a single person alive who didn’t come from other people who have already passed or eventually will pass.  If it weren’t for our ancestors and forebears, we literally wouldn’t be here.  It is because of all their labors, efforts, works, and lives that we can exist.  Their blood flows in our veins, their breath fills our lungs, their thoughts and hopes and dreams help shape our own.  More than just our own lives, though, our ancestors have collectively formed the entirety of all human civilization to date: every prayer we recite, every machine we use, every language we speak, every plant we harvest, every building we enter, every philosophy we debate, every thing we use was developed, cultivated, maintained, and passed down to us by all those who have gone before us.  In truly every sense, we owe everything we are, everything we have, and everything we do to our ancestors.

This isn’t a new concept.  Even going back before the Paleolithic era, we find evidence of burials and rituals that honor the dead, and ever since then, every culture has some sort of practice that does just that.  Sometimes there are full-blown ancestor cults, sometimes there are religious specialists who practice specific rituals that interface with the dead, and sometimes there are just passing rituals that mark the passing of someone from life into death, but death is about as universal a thing as anything else could be for the human condition.  After all, every living thing must die, and there have been quite a few living things that have died before we were even close to incarnation.  We honor and respect that passing, even if we struggle to understand it and even if we have no proper way to fathom what may come after, because we know that one day every one of us living will also pass over and join with the rest of the ancestors.

Because of all this, and because we all have a bit of the dead in us that give us life, we all already have a natural connection and relationship with our ancestors.  Especially for people who are new to the Work, honoring and working with your ancestors is a fantastically wonderful, beneficial, useful, and fulfilling practice that pretty much anyone and everyone should be engaging in.  In so many ways, ancestor veneration (or ancestor work, or family necromancy, or however you want to call it) is all but necessary, and is almost always critical for so many people to engage with that it’s a true misery and failing that it’s all but fallen out of the popular Western modes of occulture (pace, Signora LaVaudoise, I know, and I adore the things you share and write about Italian folk magic, as should every-goddamn-one else, so if you’re not Signora LaVaudoise, clicky-click on her name and go to her blog).  There’s been a recent surge in necromancy this and that, sure, and ancestor veneration is definitely related to necromantic practices (you’re still working with the dead, after all), but it’s also so important to so many religions and paths around the world that it’s honestly surprising that it wasn’t one of the first things preserved, or one of the first things redeveloped, in the modern West.  There are cultural pockets where it’s kept alive (such as it is) and well, especially in Caribbean, Latino, African, Asian, and so many other practices, but unless you’re coming from such a community, you’re typically not going to be aware of anything more than the notion there’s something deathy going on around Halloween.

Even a basic ancestor veneration practice is something that I recommend at least as much as I do meditation, a personal daily prayer routine, learning divination, frequent spiritual cleansing, and any other fundamental practice because ancestor veneration itself is often so fundamental to so many other practices.  We already have a connection with these spirits, and almost every possible case, these spirits are already willing to communicate with you; after all, you’re their progeny, and they want to see you do well just like how they hoped their own children do well when they were alive.  You are their continuation and living representatives, and they want to reach out to you as much as they want you to reach out to them.  Not only that, but they’re willing to help you to achieve your goals, because it ties into that “we’re happy if you’re happy” thing.  Between their readiness to talk with you and work for you, there’s another thing that they can do that makes all the difference in the world: they’re able to teach and guide you as well.  After all, by plugging into your ancestors, you’re able to literally get in touch with honest-to-heaven-and-hell literal ancestral wisdom, countless generations of the experiences and stories and tales of full lives lived and led from start to finish.  Recall how, say, you had your first heartbreak when you were a teenager, and you felt that nobody else in the world understood the pain you’re going through?  Then recall how, ten years later, you saw such a teenager was going through their first heartbreak, and understood how it felt and how it would turn out?  For every single problem in your life, your ancestors have already lived through it in every possible permutation countless times over, and you can draw on them to teach you how to fix any problem, deal with any predicament, sort through any crisis, and guide you through every decision you need.

Between the benefits of working with your ancestors, there’s also the actual skills you can develop in the course of building a relationship with them that can serve you well in any later magical endeavor.  All these boil down into two main benefits: you learn how to communicate with spirits, and you learn how to deal with spirits.  For people who struggle with communicating with spirits or who don’t know where to begin, working with your ancestors is a fantastic kick-off point because you’re not reaching out far into the ether to connect with some ancient god or struggling to make sense of the messages from a tutelary animal spirit who doesn’t speak even any sort of human tongue; your ancestors already have a connection with you and you with them, they’re already used to communicating human things in human manners, and they typically already speak your language.  You don’t have to reach out nearly as far or try nearly as hard to listen to your dead as you would other things, so learning how to communicate with your dead is an excellent way to build up the ability to Listen to spirits and how to sense when they’re trying to communicate to you.

As for dealing with spirits, I literally mean making deals with them.  When you put your ancestors to work, you get to learn and have a feel for what’s appropriate to ask for and what’s inappropriate; for instance, even though my deceased grandmother would love to give me the world and the Moon, I wouldn’t ask her for guidance on computer programming, because that wasn’t in her skillset or expertise, and she’d be more than happy to say so, but for matters of cooking or learning how to account for documents and records, she’d be glad to share her wisdom.  More than that, you get a feel for when spirits can just help you when asked, when they need something to help them in the work, and when they expect payment for services rendered.  If a particular spirit says they need something, like a shot of whiskey or physical representation of a tool they used in life to do the work you ask them to, I invite you to try to make them do such work without giving it to them, and then see what it’s like when you give them what they need to do the work.  Sometimes they ask for too much, and they need to make do with either nothing or something pared-down; sometimes you need to negotiate and bring the price down, so to speak; sometimes you need to figure out whether it’s just a temporary thing they need to use, or if it needs to stay with them for a longer period of time as a permanent representation of them so as to stick around closer to you and do more and better work.  All that works as well for up-front provisioning as well as after-the-fact payment; sometimes they’ll say “I’m more than happy to do this for you gratis”, but just as often (if not moreso), they’ll want something as a token of your appreciation or something to repay them for the effort they put into the work, just as any human would expect it.  After all, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” is a language everyone and everything understands.

Assuming your family, culture, and religion doesn’t have one of its own, or if you’re detached from your ancestral practices to the point where you’re not familiar with them, then what do you need to get started with ancestor veneration?  Not much, honestly.  For a general template of practice, the bare minimum (and what’s sufficient for most people) that I recommend is:

  • A small, clean surface that you can cover in white cloth
  • A white cloth to cover said surface
  • A clear glass of clean water
  • A white candle

That’s it.  You don’t need anything more than that.  There are other things you can add, of course, like photos or paintings of your ancestors, religious symbols or holy texts held in high esteem by your family, jewelry or perfumes or other tchotchkes owned by them, up to eight other glasses of water for an odd-numbered total, a pot of dirt harvested respectfully from their graves mixed with the ash of their photos and names, and so forth, but you don’t need them, and after a certain point, the more cluttered things get, the more awkward and nasty it is to maintain.  As in so many other practices, it’s best to keep it simple unless you have a distinct need otherwise.

If you can afford to have a table, stool, or pedestal to set your ancestor shrine up on, awesome!  If not, a shelf, corner of a desk, or other surface will work just as well; I prefer to have something that I can sit at and see comfortably, and out of respect for the ancestors I prefer to have the surface be at least waist-high, but those are just my preferences.  So long as it’s a space you can keep clean, quiet, undisturbed, and unprofaned, it’ll work quite well as an ancestor shrine.  Clean the surface off thoroughly; if you have holy water or Florida water, this is perfect to use for this purpose, but if you have any other altar-preparation method for cleansing and preparing a shrine, go ahead and use that.  Cover the surface with a white cloth; it can be a fancy never-before-used new tablecloth if you like, but a simple piece of unstained white fabric in good condition is all you need, so long as you can dedicate it to the use of the ancestor shrine and don’t use it for another purpose.  When the cloth gets dusty or dirty, remove it, wash it, clean the surface of the ancestor shrine again as you did before, recover it with the cloth, and set it back up.

Set the white candle and glass of water on the surface.  Light the candle and dedicate the light of the candle to the empowerment, enlightenment, and elevation of your ancestors.  Let it burn out on its own safely, if you like, or burn it when you actively sit and work the shrine.   Dedicate the glass of water to your ancestors that it may refresh them, nurture them, please them, and quicken them.  Refresh the glass of water on a frequent basis, never letting it dry out completely and keeping it clean every so often.  Try to avoid using that glass for any other purpose once you give it to the ancestor shrine.  If you’re just starting out, I would recommend getting some glass-encased seven-day or novena candles, and keeping one burning all the time for the first month or so or while you’re getting your ancestor-working-legs under you, refreshing the shrine with both a new candle and a new glass of water whenever the candle goes out.  Once you and your ancestors settle into a comfortable relationship, you can change how that works or set up your own routine.

So how do you actually develop a relationship with your ancestors this way?  Literally just spend time at their shrine.  Talk with them; don’t whisper, don’t mouth words silently, but actually talk to them like you’d talk to anyone human sitting across the dinner table from you.  Call them out by name; if you have a genealogist in your family, ask them for details on the full names of those from whom you descend.  The more names you know of your ancestors, the better off you’ll be in developing a relationship with them, but if all you know is one or two, that’s sufficient; the unnamed rest will still listen to you.  If you know of one ancestor who passed over while you were alive whom you knew and loved, that shade would be a perfect person to start with, by calling them specifically to help you learn how to communicate, talk with, and organize how to work with the rest of the ancestors.  If you’re young and fortunate enough to not have had anyone close die in your lifetime or living memory, then ask for a particular ancestor to step forward and act as your primary contact, and see who comes forward.  In all cases, whether you’re working with an ancestor whom you knew in life, an ancestor who died long before you were aware of them, or any mix and match of both in any number, just talk with them.  Share your concerns, your worries, your hopes and dreams, your grievances and sorrows with them; talk about yourself, how you’re doing, how your living family members are doing, and your plans.  Literally treat your ancestors like family catching up at the dinner table of a family reunion, because that’s literally what you’re doing.  And just like how hanging out and talking with your cousins more makes them more than just people you’re kin with into friends and allies, doing the same with any of your ancestors will bring them closer to you into a tight-knit relationship that not even death could mess with.

What about prayers?  If your family’s faith and religion has any special prayers or songs they use for remembering and honoring the dead, like the Mourner’s Kaddish for Jewish dead or the Chaplet for the Dead for Catholic dead, those are gold to start with.  Heck, there’s even an entire Wikipedia article on prayers for the dead in different religions and traditions.  Other simple prayers, especially the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for anyone of Christian descent or familiarity, are fantastic to recite at the shrine.  Beyond that, any other prayer you find appropriate to pray at the shrine for your development as well as theirs is good; as in all things, pray from the heart.  You don’t need to invoke this deity or that saint unless you want to, because this shrine is for your dead, regardless of whatever psychopomp, gate guardian, or hieromartyr saint your traditions or faith may link with them.  And even then, you don’t need prayer at all for this shrine unless you want to; the purpose of the shrine is to act as a seat and home for your ancestors in your life, and the real prayer is just talking with them.

Are there any specific times to work the shrine?  Sure, I suppose; if you put faith in the notion that “the veil between the worlds is thinner” at certain times than others, then you might do special works during Samhain, Día de los Muertos, the Ghost Festival, Setsubun, Parentalia, or other culturally-appropriate seasons.  Other dates of importance could be the birthdays and deathdays of particular ancestors for whom you have the records for, especially those whom you knew and loved when they were alive.  But, really, even considering all those, the best time to work the ancestor shrine is literally any time and all the time.  After all, every day you live is one you owe to those who went before you, and every day you live is one they support you and guide you.  They’re always ready and willing to talk with you, so any time is a good time.  You don’t need to wait for a planetary hour or astrologial election to do something unless you want to, and even then, most of your ancestors probably won’t care about them anyway unless you make a point of it.  Daytime or nighttime, waxing Moon or waning Moon, whenever you want and whenever you can, just sit down and start working with them.  If you’re comfortable doing a daily offering and chat with them, like first thing in the morning or right when you get home from work in the evening do it; if all you have time for is a ten-minute chat once a week, do it.  The only thing I would recommend is that the more frequent you do so, the better your relationships will grow, the better your work will go, and the better your results will turn out.

Are there any other disposable or consumable offerings you could make besides candles and water?  Sure!  All you need to do is ask them what they might like or prefer.  If you know that one of your ancestors was fond of a particular meal or type of food, try giving it to them as a nice gift to show that you’re thinking of them.  Whenever you cook a large meal for your family (holiday dinners, like for Thanksgiving or Christmas, are prime choices for this), set aside the first spoonful of whatever you make for the ancestors by putting it on a plate and setting it on their shrine overnight.  Flowers are always a good choice, and occasionally a cup of coffee (black or sweetened, whichever you prefer to give or however they prefer to take it) or glass of rum, whiskey, beer, or soda can go a long way towards keeping them happy and content.  A cigarette or cigar, or some incense lit for them, can also do wonders for establishing contact or getting them closer to you, as well as giving them a little extra spiritual oomph.  Of course, you probably would want to avoid things they hated or stuff they find taboo; I wouldn’t give my Jewish ancestors a plate of absolutely un-kosher fried pork belly, after all, no matter how delicious it might be.  You don’t need to spend oodles of money or time to make them offerings, and you don’t need to be wasteful or go all-out every single time.  In fact, giving modest offerings is often better than lavish ones; the more reasonable of your ancestors will probably be overwhelmed by too much, and the more greedy of them will wonder why you didn’t bring more this time like you did last time.  You don’t need much; whatever’s nice, pleasant, and simple to offer them is all that’s needed to keep their space beautiful, their hearts happy, and their minds reminded that you know them, you recognize them, and you’re thinking of them.

As for the rest?  Spells, works, rituals, ceremonies, protocols, languages, decorations, arrangements, whatever?  It’s literally up to however you want to take things, and how far you want to take them.  If you just want to give your ancestors a seat in your house and keep things relaxed and low-maintenance, do it.  If you want to spend time with them every day in preparation for a full necromantic practice with your ancestors at the helm of your spiritual court, do it.  If you want to make them work for you to keep your blood and bloodline healthy and whole, do it.  If you want to simply venerate them and consistently offer them sustenance and honor for its own sake, do it.  There are no real guidelines besides you doing what you feel is appropriate with them, what they agree to and desire from you, and whatever can inform your practices based on your cultural and religious ties to the past.

While there may be a whole slew of techniques and methods and rules one might follow based on what flavor of ancestor veneration you’re doing (Kardecian spiritism, and especially its developments into Caribbean and Brazilian Espiritismo, are fantastic resources to learn and draw from), all the above can be so individualized and customized and personalized in so many ways that it’s almost pointless to go over them here.  The real thing is to develop a strong relationship with your ancestors and learn from them, and they’ll take it from there.  Ask them questions; ask how to listen better to them, how to get dreams from them, how to pray, what to offer them, what offerings they like, when certain times to approach them might be, when you should undertake that particular project, how to enhance your own skills and trades, and so forth.  Ask who they are, what their stories are, what their specialties are, and just generally how they’re doing.  Ask if they have any problems or have any needs that you can fulfill on their end to make sure that they’re not only resting in peace but able to rise in power.  Ask if there’s any difficulty between you or them, or if they foresee any problems or dangers in your life that they can help protect you from or guide you away from.  Talk with them, chat with them, learn from them, grow with them.  Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they’re not family, and just because they’re discarnate doesn’t mean they don’t want to be part of your incarnate life.

Your ancestors are almost always going to be the first spirits ready and willing to help you, and they have always formed the first foundation for everything in our lives, so it only makes sense that they should be among the first petitioned for any problem you may have spiritually or materially.  So what are you waiting for?  Go on and give your great-grandmother a seat at the table and have a chat with her.  I’m sure she’d love to learn the latest gossip from this side of the river and share some of her own tips and tricks when she was young.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you have any ancestor practices you follow?  Are there any special rituals you do above and beyond the usual that honor your blessed and mighty dead?  How do you work them or work with them?  Share some of your experiences below in the comments!

Lunar Grammatomantic Ritual Calendar

About a year ago, I first encountered grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, and just took it and ran with it.  I do a Daily Grammatomancy on Facebook and Twitter (or, at least, mostly daily, excepting days I’m off work or am not up for it), and I’ve even written an ebook on the topic that correlates the Greek letters to the different forces of astrology, the Greek gods, the angels, and many others.  Later on last year, based on my inspiration with my daily grammatomancy reading and watching a friend use the Mayan calender system for divination, I toyed around with the idea of applying the Greek alphabet oracle to a calendrical system of its own, making two variants:

Of the two, the lunisolar one is the more easily approachable and immediately recognizable as a calendar that the ancients might conceivably have used, especially when considered against the highly mathematical and rigorous solar variant.  Of course, the ancient Greeks had their own calendars, with the ritual ones largely based on the cycle of the Moon, so it made sense for me to base my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar on such a system, and given that the most data we have on such calendars comes from Athens and Attic culture, I based my calendar on the Attic lunar festival calendar.  The Attic calendar had several feasts and ritual days scattered throughout the month based on the myths of the gods, such as Hermes on the fourth day of the month, Apollo on the seventh, and so forth.  By straightforwardly connecting the letters of the Greek alphabet in my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar to the lunar festival calendar of Attica, we get something like the following:

Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Α
Noumenia
2
2nd rising
Β
Agathos Daimon
3
3rd rising
Γ
Athena
4
4th rising
Δ
Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite, Eros
5
5th rising
Ε
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Artemis
7
7th rising
Ζ
Apollo
8
8th rising
Η
Poseidon, Theseus
9
9th rising
Θ
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
12
12th
Κ
13
13th
Λ
14
14th
Μ
15
15th
Ν
16
16th
Ξ
Full Moon
17
17th
Ο
18
18th
Π
19
19th
Ϙ
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
22
9th waning
Σ
23
8th waning
Τ
24
7th waning
Υ
25
6th waning
Φ
26
5th waning
Χ
27
4th waning
Ψ
28
3rd waning
Ω
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Omitted in hollow months
30
Old and New
— (Ϡ if hollow month)

Pretty simple.  A civilized calendar for a more civilized age, I suppose, but it’s a little lacking for me.  I mean, it clusters most observances in the first week or so of the month with little to do later, and most of the gods and heroes it includes I simply…don’t work with.  I mean, my practice is going to necessarily be different than those of the classical Athenians even if I base some of my work off them, so it makes sense.  I recall Sannion developing his own calendar and observance cycle based on his own practice in the vein of a new system, which I believe (though he can correct me if I’m wrong) he’s using for his Thiasos of the Starry Bull; making a ritual calendar fine-tuned to one’s own practice, I believe, is a helpful thing indeed, and a few stray comments on Twitter inspired me to take a closer look at my own calendrical observances and system.  I mean, I have a ritual schedule in place, though it’s also all over the place, with daily, weekly, monthly, lunar-monthly, yearly, seasonal, and astrological observances, and honestly, it’s a mess.  Add to it, my day-to-day life with offices and commuting and aikido classes takes up a significantly large chunk of my time, and it’s not always possible to follow through with the plans I set for myself at the beginning of the year based on what else I need to do and how much sleep I can get (which is, as ever, not enough).

In my ebook on grammatomancy, I linked the letters of the Greek alphabet to the various gods of Greek religion based on their stoicheic correspondences of the elements, planets, and signs.  And since I also linked the letters to the days of the lunar month, it makes sense that I could link the gods to the days of the lunar month, as well.  However, so that it could suffice for me as a proper lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar, I also wanted to add in things specific to my practice or modern practice, such as a day to venerate the ancestors and mighty dead, a day to celebrate other forces that aren’t specifically gods, and the like.

  • For any given letter and its singular stoicheic correspondence, there are usually multiple gods that correspond to it; for instance, Khi, associated with Fire, can be attributed to Rhea, Hephaistos, Hekate, or Hestia equally well.  I associate each day with one god, perhaps with a closely-associated figure, such as Hermes with his son Pan, or a group of gods or spirits as a class.
  • Some of the days of the month are significant purely for their lunar symbolism, such as the dates of the New Moon, Dark Moon, and Full Moon.  Other rituals happen on these dates, but are not specifically nor necessarily associated with the celebration of a particular god.
  • Days of the month that have no letters associated with them (days 10, 20, and the final day in full months) have no rituals associated with them.  No letter, no stoicheia, no gods, no ritual.  These are basically dedicated break days, a kind of sabbath, or they can be used to clean up offerings and rituals from the preceding decade of days or prepare for the next.
  • Three days of the month (days 6, 19, and 29) are given the obsolete Greek letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi.  These letters have no stoicheic correspondence, nor do they have any gods associated with them.  Since they were pirits of light, shadow, and the starsonce used and inherited from the Phoenicians, however, while they may be effectively missing from use, they’re not forgotten.  I’ve given these days to the ancestors, whom I divide into three groups: Ancestors of Kin (those related by name, family, marriage, and blood), of Faith (those of spiritual lineage, teachers, prophets, and tradition founders), and of the Great (culture heroes, saints, and other great people whose work has benefited our lives).
  • Although it might be expected that the seven days that have the seven vowels associated to them (days 1, 5, 8, 11, 17, 24, and 28) would be given to the gods that equate to the planets (such as Hermes for Epsilon on day 5), I normally invoke and make offerings to the planets on their corresponding days of the week (which is an unrelated cycle to this calendar).  Instead, I mark these days by honoring a set of powers I call “Guardians of the Directions”, kinda like Watchtowers of Enochiana or Archangels in the LBRP, but associated with the seven directions (east, south, west, north, above, center, below).  These are from my PGM explorations and daily energy work, which I’ve mentioned before, but they’re quite powerful forces in their own rights.  The Guardian at the center I associate with the word of power ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ, or “MALPARTALKHŌ”, a word I’ve received for this direction when I don’t want to use my own Agathodaimon/HGA name, though it refers to the Agathodaimon generally.  These forces are closer to the earth than some of the other gods, and certainly closer than the seven planets, yet still distinct from the world itself and its own sets of spirits.  Their letter correspondences come from the directions one faces when working with the powers of the seven planets, themselves associated with the seven vowels, according to a ritual from the PGM that I’ve adapted to my own uses.  These seven powers, as the seven planets or seven archangels, form a synaxis, a coherent and unified group, that work together, so I figured I should recognize them and elaborate on their places in my life a little more than I do currently.  Sets of gnostic aeons, the seven planets as gods in their own rights (perhaps as titans?), the seven Sages of Greece, or similar entities might similarly be worshipped on these days, but I figure that the Guardians are good for now.
  • Although I tried to keep the five elemental letters associated with things close to their elements, these are basically the catch-all days for groups of spirits or deities, with the exception of Psi, given to Dionysus, since Psi’s associated stoicheion is spirit, not quite an element but not quite a celestial force, either, perfect for the god as I see it.
Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Noumenia
Α
Erbeth
2
2nd rising
Β
Athena
Nike
3
3rd rising
Γ
Aphrodite
Eros
4
4th rising
Δ
Apollo
Asklepios
5
5th rising
Ε
Lerthexanax
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Ancestors of Kin
7
7th rising
Ζ
Hermes
Pan
8
8th rising
Η
Ablanathanalba
9
9th rising
Θ
Gaia and Oceanos
Spirits of land and water
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
Sesengenbarpharanges
12
12th
Κ
Zeus
Tykhe
13
13th
Λ
Demeter
14
14th
Μ
Hephaistos
15
15th
Ν
Ares
16
16th
Full Moon
Ξ
Persephone
Hades
17
17th
Ο
Damnameneus
18
18th
Π
Artemis
19
19th
Ϙ
Ancestors of Faith
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
Hestia
Spirits of house and home
22
9th waning
Σ
Hera
23
8th waning
Τ
Poseidon
24
7th waning
Υ
Agathodaimon
25
6th waning
Φ
Nine Muses
Three Graces
26
5th waning
Χ
Hekate
Three Moirai
Three Erinyes
27
4th waning
Ψ
Dionysus
28
3rd waning
Ω
Akrammakhamarei
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Ancestors of the Great
(day omitted in hollow months)
30
Old and New
Dark Moon

(Ϡ if hollow month)

(Ancestors of the Great if hollow month)

So, as a ritual calendar, that’s not too shabby.  It’s busy looking, of course, and if I were to give timai (honor, worship, service, etc.) to all the gods and spirits here listed, I’d be wrecking myself with overwork and more wine poured out than I could afford.  Happily for my health, that’s not the case, since I don’t give timai to all the gods.  I only wanted to show what a full ritual calendar made for my practice might look like theoretically; in practice, I’d make services only for those deities and spirits I work with or involve in my life.  This isn’t to say I don’t respect, say, Artemis or Ares, but I don’t involve them in my life as much as a hunter or a warrior would.  Plus, if I started working with a new god in this scheme, I’d already have a day allotted for them instead of having to cram them haphazardly into my schedule, which is my current MO and not a very good one at that.

So, given this schema, I’d be doing my daily offerings to the angels and planets as usual.  I’d be making offerings to the ancestors three days of the lunar month, plus the seven Guardians of the Directions; I’d also be making offerings to Hermes, Asklepios, and Dionysus as I do now, and I plan on working Aphrodite, Hestia, and Hephaistos into my routine.  At a minimum, then, I’d be making these special offerings 16 days of the 29- or 30-day lunar month, which’d increase to 21 days if I also include offerings to some of the other deities I’d like to work with once in a while: Zeus, the Muses and Graces, Hekate with the Erinyes and Moirai, Persephone and Hades, and the spirits of land and water.  It’d be a busy schedule, granted, but at least I’d have a good schedule to work with the gods in, and I could give them the time they need alone and separate from the others instead of being crammed in with a bunch of spirits on a Monday night after groceries when I have time.

The schema would indicate I’m focused on the Olympian gods in my worship, but that’s not entirely true; I only work with a handful of them, and their associations come from their links to the signs of the Zodiac, which I’ve associated with the “simple” consonants of the Greek alphabet (those except for Theta, Ksi, Phi, Khi, and Psi).  If a particular god, deity, or spirit has some sort of connection to one of these gods, or if they fall under the same realm, I might use the Greek grammatomantic day above to work with them if I can.  Also, of course, this only would be used for routine regular offerings, like what I do currently.  Yearly festivals, special observances, and the like are on their own cycle; the yearly Hermaia would still be kept on the fourth day of the tenth lunar month after the summer solstice, for instance, and so that would coincide technically with that month’s Apollo/Asklepios offerings.  Plus, I’d keep this system separate from the weekdays, which I use to work with the angels, saints, and other spirits that aren’t like the Greek gods or Hermetic ideas.

And, if I really wanted to get crazy with this, I could even tune this schedule into a straight 24-cycle of gods to worship all within a single day.  By taking a page out from my solar grammatomantic calendar idea, we can associate each of the 24 hours (diurnal and nocturnal as unequal hours, just like with the planetary hours, starting at dawn) with one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, omitting the three obsolete letters of the alphabet.  Each hour could be given to one of the gods in a sequence, allowing for an intense full day of worship and rituals to honor all the gods and forces of the cosmos.  So, starting with Alpha at dawn, we’d honor Erbeth, then Athena, then Aphrodite, then Apollo, and so forth until the hour just before dawn the next day with Akrammakhamarei.  The ancestors wouldn’t be explicitly honored, but as they’re always with us and living through and by us, they’re already involved in every ritual, anyway.  This would be an intense working, though not one I’d likely perform for a while, and is mostly just a thought to toy with at the moment.

What about you?  Do you use a kind of ritual calendar to schedule or arrange observances and worship in your own practice?  Do you prefer to just go to the gods as needed or as felt?  Do you schedule things by the week, month, year, or at all?  Share your practices in the comments!

Elemental Transformations and the Geomantic Figures

It’s interesting what you can pick up from talking with spirits.  The other day, I was enjoying my weekly chat with my ancestors, making the usual offerings and just chewing the fat with them.  I don’t just include the ancestors of my blood and kin, though; the ancestors include everyone whose work or lives led to my own, so it’s a pretty wide field.  Generally speaking, as a magician, I have two large fields for my ancestors: one for ancestors of my blood and kin, and another for those of my faith and practice.  Magicians, priests, pagans, Christians, Jews, Hermeticists, anyone who’s already crossed and yet led to my spiritual life is considered an ancestor, and I have a special place for the ancestors of my Work in my heart.  There are other ancestors thrown into the mix of those two groups, of course, but those are the big ones.

When I told them that I was writing a book on geomancy, some in the ghostly crowd perked their ears up and started chatting more with me.  Geomancy being one of the most popular forms of divination in Europe historically over the past millennium, this isn’t too surprising, though I was caught a little off-guard by how on-board they were with that.  Since I like tapping into the ancestral font of knowledge those who have gone before me provide, I asked them for some advice with geomancy.  Besides some techniques I plan to do some more research on, one of the things they mentioned was performing another elemental analysis of the geomantic figures.  I got an image of Fortuna Maior transforming into Carcer, then again into Fortuna Minor, then again into Coniunctio, and then again into Fortuna Maior in a cycle.  I got the hint, and after a few inspired flashes of insight, I got the gist for a new(?) kind of elemental analysis for the figures.  I’ve already delved into one such analysis before, but this is a different kind focusing on the structure of the figures.

As you might have guessed, this post is gonna get into some geomantic theory.  Run away now if that’s not your thing or get some wine.

When considering the geomantic figures as mathematical objects, I normally ascribe four operations that can be done on them: addition, inversion, reversion, and conversion.  Readers of my De Geomanteia posts may recall this in my descriptions of the figures, but put briefly:

  • Addition: adding two figures to get a third (e.g. Puer added to Puella to obtain Coniunctio).  The interaction, harmony, and force between a pair of figures or forces in the cosmos.
  • Inversion: replacing all the single dots with double dots and vice versa (e.g. Puer inverted becomes Albus).  Everything this figure is not on an external level.
  • Reversion: rotating a figure upside down (e.g. Puer reverted becomes Puella).  The same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme.
  • Conversion: inversion with reversion (e.g. Puer converted becomes Rubeus).  The same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar, contraparallel manner.

The ancestors showed me yet another method to alter a geomantic figure, which I’m tentatively terming descending.  Descending a figure takes the bottommost row of a figure and stacks it on top of the figure, pushing the other rows downward.  Thus, Puer descended once becomes Cauda Draconis; this descends again into Caput Draconis, and again into Puella; and  again into Puer.  In doing this, we get several groups of figures that descend in a particular order: two monadic cycles, one binadic cycle, and three tetradic cycles of descent.

  • Populus descends into Populus
  • Via descends into Via
  • Acquisitio and Amissio descend into each other
  • Laetitia descends into Rubeus, which descends into Albus, which descends into Tristitia, which descends into Laetitia
  • Fortuna Maior descends into Carcer, which descends into Fortuna Minor, which descends into Coniunctio, which descends into Fortuna Maior
  • Caput Draconis descends into Puella, which descends into Puer, which descends into Cauda Draconis, which descends into Caput Draconis

Taken from an elemental viewpoint, this is the process by which the elements of a figure transform into their next most available state.  I forget where I read it from (something from Plato, probably), but the elements have two qualities, only one of which is primary.  The qualities are broken into two pairs of opposing natures: hot and cold, and wet and dry.  For instance, while the element fire is both hot and dry, it is primarily hot and secondarily dry.  The list of the elements then becomes:

  1. Fire: primarily hot, secondarily dry
  2. Air: primarily wet, secondarily hot
  3. Water: primarily cold, secondarily wet
  4. Earth: primarily dry, secondarily cold

Moreover, the elements are capable of changing into each other by replacing one of the qualities with its opposite.  Water, for instance, can turn into earth by making its moisture dry, and air can turn into water by cooling its heat; air can likewise turn into fire by drying its moisture, and fire can turn into earth by removing its heat.  The transformation of the elements can go in either direction, with the process from fire to earth signifying a process of settling or stability and the process from earth to fire signifying entropy or activity.  However, the elements also form a cycle, such that earth can also directly become fire without going through water or air, and likewise fire into earth.

Descending, then, is essentially the “settling” process of the elements applied to the structure of the geomantic figures.  The number of dots within a figure is preserved (note how Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia descend into each other and all contain the same seven dots in different arrangements).  The reverse process of ascending is the “entropy” process of the elements, where the top line becomes the bottom and the rest of the elemental rows are pushed up.  Since the geomantic figures can be seen as abstract combinations of the elements, what the elements can do, so too can the geomantic figures.

Via and Populus are interesting in that they’re the only figures that descend (or ascend) into themselves.  Since they have the same activity or passivity in every line of their figures, they can only ever descend into what was already present.  I take this to mean that Populus and Via are at extremes of the elements: either there is absolutely nothing or there is absolutely everything, a void or a singularity.  Where there is nothing, nothing can be done since there is nothing to be acted upon; where there is totality, nothing can be meaningfully changed since it already includes everything.

Acquisitio and Amissio, similarly, are unusual in that they only descend into each other, without another two figures filling in the cycle.  Acquisitio is a combination of air and earth; Amissio is a combination of fire and water.  These elemental pairs are opposites, so by preserving their structural relationships, the descent of one figure composed from opposite elements is another figure composed from opposite elements.  No other figure in geomancy are like these two because of this.  Further, while the combination of air and earth produces gain, the combination of fire and air produces loss; moisture/dryness is a separate beast from heat/cold, so while one relies on the material bases of things (Acquisitio) which relies on the energetic and spiritual, the other relies on the energetic means of things (Amissio) which consumes the material and physical.  In order to gain things, one must expend effort or resources for it; in order to lose something, one must get meaning and direction for it.

The real show of descent comes into play with the other twelve figures of geomancy.  The simplest case is that with figures that contain a single active element: Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Laetitia is pure fire, and is a figure of joy, elation, optimism, and planning, all due to its hot and dry nature.  It has nothing else to go for it, though, so when that energy becomes less goal-oriented (fire) and settles down into a more material state (air), Laetitia becomes Rubeus, which is a figure of violence, chaos, confusion, and destruction.  That same energy is there, but it’s pure and untempered by anything else, so without direction the energy from Laetitia becomes scattered and dispersed.  Over time, the dispersion of energy in Rubeus settles further into Albus, with it starting to collect back into itself in a more contemplative, reflective manner.  The energy becomes less capable of causing change and is now more capable of being changed, becoming passive (not in elemental terms, here) instead of active.  Further, once the detached reflection of Albus settles further into Tristitia, the energy becomes locked down and completely crystallized into matter, unable to do anything on its own and only capable of being acted upon as a basis for other work.  Tristitia is a figure of fixidity and rigidness, without ability to move or act; it is only when the material of Tristitia is consumed and rejuvenated can it become active again, burning the dry fuel of Tristitia into Laetitia once more.

The next tetrad of figures in descent is Fortuna Maior, Carcer, Fortuna Minor, and Coniunctio.  Here, Fortuna Maior is a figure of slow and independent development, like a river carving out a canyon by its own nature and movement.  However, over time that energy becomes less and less, with all its potential used up; this devolves the nurturing force of Fortuna Maior into Carcer, which is no longer nourishing but only vacant.  Nothing can be done with this energy as it is, since it has lost all means of interacting with the world around itself; it is only when an outside force picks it up can it be sustained or made use of again, as indicated by the descent of Carcer into Fortuna Minor.  This mingling of forces leads to further mingling, focusing less on action and more on interaction, leading from Fortuna Minor to Coniunctio.  Communicationa and interaction becomes the theme, at least for a short while, until the interaction of forces settles further into self-action, separation of ways into one’s own path, which leads once again to the force of Fortuna Maior.

The last tetrad of figures in descent is Caput Draconis, Puella, Puer, and Cauda Draconis.  Caput Draconis is the figure of beginnings, with everything but fire being present; unlike its inverse of optimistic Laetitia which is all plan and no potential, Caput Draconis has all the material and interactive potential but nowhere and no impetus to use it; it is a pure seed.  The force of Caput Draconis, once it settles into Puella, becomes patient and harmonizing, aware of one’s physical means and of the need of others to make use of it.  In this phase, there is still little means to use something, but at least the desire for use is present.  Puella awaits the arrival and energy of Puer, which is the force that uses what Puella has to offer while having little of its own to use.  Puer is active and direct, countering Puella’s passivity and indirectness, and seeks to find and join with.  However, once Puer attains this and uses up everything obtained, this all settles down into an ending with Cauda Draconis; either the hero accomplishes his journey successfully or falls short and fails having exhausted his means prematurely.  Cauda Draconis is everything but earth, all energy and interaction but no means or substance, and quickly falls apart.  However, the residue from the collapse of Cauda Draconis plants the germ for the next iteration, starting with Caput Draconis again.

Bear in mind that each figure is a representation of the four elements that compose everything in our world; it’s not a stretch to consider the geomantic elements like alchemical formulae or states of the cosmos, and if we consider the figures to represent closed systems (as opposed to open systems that the operation of addition affords us), then we can analyze how a situation can evolve based on a single figure.  This enables us to make better use of single-figure readings: if we draw Coniunctio as a single answering figure for a query about a relationship, we can certainly say that things are going well and will continue to do so, but the relationship will also allow for self-discovery by means of the relationship and eventual self-growth (Fortuna Maior), with periods of being alone to process it or with difficulty (Carcer), and recovery with the help of the partner to come back to more connection (Fortuna Minor).  Likewise, if we add two figures in a house chart to understand the interaction between them, we can use the descent of the figures to see how that interaction will progress over time independent of the other factors in the chart.

Similar explanations of the tetrads of the figures can be given for the ascent transformation, as well, but I leave that as an exercise for the interested geomancy-minded reader.  Consider what we’re doing when we descend a figure: we take the elements within that figure, and turn the secondary quality into its opposite and make it the primary quality.  So, fire, which is primarily hot and secondarily dry, turns into air by our taking the secondary quality (dry) and turning it into its opposite (wet) and making it primary; the element that is primarily wet and secondarily hot is air.  The ascent of the figure is the opposite case: we take the primary quality of the elements, turn that into its opposite, and make it secondary.  Thus, fire (primarily hot and secondarily dry) becomes earth by taking its primarily quality (hot), turning it into its opposite (cold) and making it secondary; the element that is primarily dry and secondarily cold is earth.  I would say that it’s more natural for an element to descend than ascend, since it’s easier to change an element’s secondarily quality than it is to change its primary quality, so while the descent of the elements indicates a natural evolution without interference, the ascent of the elements can indicate a forced evolution from within the situation itself.  A situation might go either way, depending on the actions of those involved in the situation, but until outside forces are brought in to break the transformation by ascent or descent through addition, things are going to keep cycling in a particular pattern metaphorically and realistically.

Not a bad idea from sharing some rum with dead folk.